Well, is everyone ready for a little pessimism and emptiness one more time? Except that today won’t be as dismal as the last couple of days. Although these proverbs still dwell on the “flat wisdom” I was talking about yesterday, they will also be followed up by the grand summary of Solomon’s great experiment and research for the meaning of life. The first of these proverbs are “under the sun” wisdom — not bad, for someone who’s leaving God out of the picture — but starting about 11:9 Solomon starts transition toward a conclusion to a wisdom that factors God in.
“Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.” Ecclesiastes 9:18; 10:1 — A spot on a white shirt; a sour note in a song; an unrepented of sin in an otherwise good life. One mess-up can spoil something really good. This is the fly in the ointment proverb that some folks have a hard time grasping; it’s easier when you have more context, isn’t it?
“If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.” Ecclesiastes 10:10 — Here’s a good one to help young people understand the value of education — if you sharpen an axe, cutting or splitting wood is ever-so-much easier (take it from someone who used to heat his New England home with a wood stove). If the axe is dull, you can still get the job done, just much more slowly with so much more effort. The point, sharpen your mind, your tools, your skills, etc. and things in life will be much easier.
“Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.” Ecclesiastes 10:19 — Boy, oh boy, here’s the secular world’s favorite sentiment — money is the answer to everything! And in a world without God, it’s close to true in many circumstances of life. Combine food and wine with money and you have something close to the godless world’s version of the trinity — maybe sex, too. But it too is emptiness. It’s “flat wisdom”.
“He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap. Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.” Ecclesiastes 11:4-6 — If you wait for the perfect opportunity to present itself to you to do something, you’ll never do what you need to do. There’s a lot of truth to it, but factor in God and the believer doesn’t have to worry over the timing of everything — “Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3, NAS95) and ““For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His…” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NAS95).
“Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.” Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10 — The key phrase that transitions this book from “under the sun” to “under God” is one found in v. 9, “Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things.” And from here Solomon starts talking about preparing one’s life with regard to God before the end. Youth is great, just remember!
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them’” Ecclesiastes 12:1 — There’s coming a time in an older man’s life, when all these things that so enamored us as young people start to take on a much lower value. The shiny and sparkly things of life start to grow dull with emptiness and “so what?” -ness (as it were). It’s better to recognize their real valuelessness sooner rather than later, better to remember God in youth, so there will be fewer wasted days to regret.
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14 — OK, this is it — don’t miss it — the conclusion of the whole thing. Here is the one thing in this world that isn’t empty and temporal; here is the distillation of heavenly wisdom, wisdom that isn’t “flat”: “Fear God and keep His commandments…God will bring every act to judgment.” OK, it’s pretty simple and is exactly what you might have assumed that a religious person might say — but this is being said by no less a person that the rich, famously wise, powerful, and worldly king Solomon himself — not some shriveled up, pale minister who never had a life. Think about it. Do more than think about it — live what it is saying. It’s the “no spin zone”, no-holds-barred, bare-naked, and honest truth.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.